“There are a lot more people out there with Jay-Z and Johnny Cash on their ipod playlists than you think.” says Rench, mastermind behind the genre breaking sensation Gangstagrass. He should know. He’s spent the last couple years travelling the country, performing for them with a groundbreaking band that gives them the best of both.
Rench produced honky-tonk hip-hop recordings on his Rench Audio imprint for the last decade, while making beasts for local NYC rappers and hosting country music nights in popular NYC venues. In 2007 Rench had a musical itch that needed to be scratched – he was listening to 1970s recordings of Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys and couldn’t help imagining what classic bluegrass would sound like with rap vocals and beats. The result was a genre-demolishing blitz called Rench Presents: Gangstagrass. He put it up for free download and people took notice. Hundreds of thousands of downloads followed creating an intense underground buzz.
When FX Network came to Rench looking for the Gangstagrass sound for the theme song to their new series Justified, he had bluegrass players lay down an original track with rapper T.O.N.E-z, the younger brother of early hip-hop legends Special K and T-LaRoc. The result was Long Hard Times To Come, the song that opens every episode of the series, now in its fourth season. Long Hard Times To Come was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2010, contending for best theme song after critical praise and massive fan response.
The same live bluegrass band approach was used to make Lightning On The Strings, Thunder On The Mic, a full length album of with T.O.N.E-z, the emcee featured in the Justified theme song.
Two years later the Gangstagrass sound was expanded with the release of Rappalachia, a 15 song album featuring a variety of rappers, including Kool Keith, Dead Prez, Nitty Scott MC, David E Beats, T.O.N.E-z, BROOKLYN35, R-SON, and Dolio The Sleuth. Country singers Brandi Hart and Jen Larson add gritty harmonies for several songs, while Rench takes vocal duties on most choruses.
Gangstagrass is now in production on another studio album, and can be found ripping up stages and blowing minds wherever they appear. Their explosive live performance have garnered a buzz at SXSW, CMJ, NXNE, LA’s The Viper Room, and on tours across the country. Back in Brooklyn at Rench Audio, there are beats and banjos wailing through the night as new tracks come together. So keep your eyes peeled and your stomping socks on – Gangstagrass keeps coming.
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